Lawmakers, first lady, advocates promote sexual assault awareness

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LANSING, Mich. — A bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers, in addition to first lady Sue Snyder and outside advocates, held a press conference on Wednesday at the state Capitol to speak about the problem of sexual assault, along with steps that legislators and advocates are taking to raise awareness, prevent sexual violence, and assist survivors.

“I am proud to be a part of the team that’s helping to put an end to sexual assault on and off campuses throughout the state of Michigan,” said state Rep. Laura Cox, R-Livonia. “Teamwork is paramount in finding a solution to this growing issue and we will continue to keep making strides toward that goal in Michigan.”

“It is crucial that leaders in Michigan work to provide sufficient resources and services to deal with the scourge of sexual assault. Currently, Michigan only has federal funding available for grants for sexual assault and prevention programs that cover just 33 of our 83 counties, leaving an incredible 50-county gap,” said state Rep. Kristy Pagan, D-Canton. “As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I truly appreciate the support of my colleagues to allow for continued discussions regarding an increase in funding for the Michigan Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention and Treatment Board, which administers these essential grants.”

To highlight the need to address sexual assault, Reps. Cox and Pagan introduced resolutions in the House to declare April 2016 as Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Campus Sexual Assault Awareness Month, respectively. Sens. Schuitmaker and Warren introduced companion resolutions in the Senate.

“Sexual assault can occur anywhere, but college campuses are of particular concern,” said state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “The university experience is meant to be fun and enjoyable, but for too many of our students it is marked by pain and confusion. Progress has been made in addressing campus sexual assault, but there is certainly more to be done. I look forward to continuing our partnership with students, schools, and law enforcement as we work to address this issue.”

“The first step in solving any problem is talking about it. I’m encouraged to be part of a bipartisan group coming together to shed light on the work that remains to be done to prevent sexual assault and support survivors,” said state Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor. “Sexual violence affects women and men across all demographic categories. We need to encourage more discussion and more action to ensure we treat this issue with the seriousness it deserves.”

Rep. Marilyn Lane, D-Fraser, a member of the first lady’s Let’s End Campus Sexual Assault initiative, also stood in support with the lawmakers today. Advocates that attended the press conference included Kathy Hagenian, executive policy director for the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic & Sexual Violence; Catherine Stratford, program coordinator and survivor advocate at First Step; and Joyce Siegel, program manager at Sexual Assault Services of Calhoun County. Roughly one in five women will be the victim of sexual assault in her lifetime, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 25 million Americans are rape survivors.

“I believe Michigan should be a leader in addressing this sensitive but important issue. There is a lot of great prevention and awareness work happening across our state but there is always more that can be done,” Snyder said. “Sexual assault prevention has been a taboo topic for far too long and these resolutions will help keep people talking about new and innovative ways to ultimately end assault. I thank our legislators for their dedication and continued partnership in this effort.”


Editor’s Note: The above photograph is available by clicking on the image or by visiting Schuitmaker’s website at Click on “Photowire” under the Media Center tab. Video of Schuitmaker and Warren discussing Senate Resolutions 168 and 169 during Wednesday’s session is also available by clicking here or by clicking “Video” under the Media Center tab.

Photo caption: State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, joined by First Lady Sue Snyder, fellow legislators, and advocates, discusses sexual assault in Michigan.